Freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Matthew 25:35
Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath day. Matthew 12:12
Thou shalt love thy neighbors as thyself. Matthew 22:39
There are few taken from Mark, but, overall, the scripture passages given by our church for the December advent are taken from the gospel of Matthew. Matthew, a convert from Judaism, is writing for a predominantly Jewish audience, his own people, with the hopes of convincing them that Jesus Christ is the hoped-for Messiah. And, to do so, he speaks of service. His intention is to persuade, but his message is not of persuasion, but a call to action. A proving, through this action, of the authenticity of Christ’s mission on earth and sacrifice for us.
We have been asked to light the world. To walk into darkened spaces, bearing light. That light—the love of Christ. Christ himself. But, we have not been asked to stand beside the giver of light, we have been asked to carry the light ourselves. We must, ourselves, do well on the sabbath day. We must freely give. We must give drink. We must do good to those who hate us. We must love our neighbors as ourselves.
To say that we live in perilous times is so apparent that it’s nearly redundant. We live in perilous times. But, not perilous alone. Perilous, exciting, harrowing, clarifying times.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .
In chapter 12 of Ether, Moroni tells us that “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” This is often quoted, but, most frequently out of context.
Moroni does indeed hope for a better world, but he says this after a lifetime spent in peril, combating evil from within his people and without. This was during a time where the Nephites became as wicked as the Lamanites. They turned away from God. But Moroni never gave up. He fought in the battles against the Lamanites, but, like Matthew, he also spent his life preaching, like Matthew, reviled by his own people, like Matthew, desperate to save their souls. It was unsuccessful, and the Lord ceased to protect them, and Moroni lived to see the destruction of his people. It is then, after this perilous lifetime spent in service, that he contents himself with hope alone for a better world.
We believe in God, and we hope, too. But there must be more than only hope. There must be action, service both large and small. Matthew, who knew something of sacrifice, exhorts us, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.” Our light is charity, the pure love of Christ, and it is sparked through action. To light the world, we must light ourselves from within.